On Bing, Founding SERA, and 50 Years
Reflecting on SERA’s 50-year history loops back to the firm’s genesis. In 1968, Bing Sheldon and a group of creative individuals with different skills formed the Design Collaborative, which was an early model of how work is done today. By 1971, I joined them, forming the foundation for SERA. The world was changing fast in the 70s, and Bing and I worked to be part of something transformational here in Portland and beyond.
Bing and I immediately gravitated towards complementary roles. Bing was the big thinker, designer and urban planner; I was the technical, back-of-the-house guy who liked being out in the field with contractors. While Bing was chairing the City of Portland’s Planning Commission during development of its revolutionary Downtown Plan, I was digging into all things technical on early adaptive reuse projects such as the Galleria, Montgomery Park, Albers Mill, New Market Theater, McCormick Pier, the Dekum Building, and many other projects.
We started leveraging our renovation work to diversify to other clients, including federal and state government. This led to a series of IDIQ contracts with GSA through which we built many relationships with GSA staff. It was these relationships which eventually led to SERA’s work transforming the Edith Green – Wendell Wyatt Federal Building into a model for efficiency and sustainability. The complementary strengths that Bing and I brought to SERA have expanded throughout the firm, and have led to an amazing diversity of clients and projects here in Portland and well beyond.
So after 50 years, what have we learned?
That everything good about SERA goes back to being collaborative over a long period of time with a shared goal of transforming the places in which we work. Our staff, our clients, and our civic involvement reflect the value of building trust relationships with people who are working to do the very same thing–and who want to be collaborative and forward-thinking in their approach to keeping our communities vital.